Photo via USA Today Sports
The Washington Nationals were as giddy as a kid in a candy store once their star outfielder returned to the lineup.
Their star outfielder, of course, refers to Juan Soto.
After Soto tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the season’s start, the 21-year-old was forced to undergo quarantine and would not step inside the batter’s box until August 5.
Since he picked up the bat, Soto has resumed his slugging ways since he cracked into the major leagues in 2018. Through 11 games this season, Soto has slashed .425/.500/.950. His On-base plus slugging (OPS) is 1.450.
The general slash line, however, does not tell the entire story, as the star’s production over the past week has dwarfed his overall production. Soto’s production in certain categories, in fact, has ranked first among all batters over the past week.
What categories, though?
Well, let’s dig into it.
Over the past seven games (August 10 to August 17), Soto has slashed .462/.533/1.077 with five home runs. His OPS during the span was 1.610. Among all batters with a minimum of 30 plate appearances over the stretch, Soto’s home run count, slugging percentage (SLG) and OPS all ranked first in the majors. Additionally, his 12 runs scored and 12 runs batted in (RBIs) ranked first.
When digging deeper, Soto’s stretch becomes even more impressive. Specifically, his 10.0% walk percentage (BB%) was higher than his strikeout percentage (6.7%). This means Soto walked more than he struck out over the past week (three walks compared to two strikeouts). In fact, Soto’s two strikeouts were the least among all batters with a minimum of 30 PA’s, including contact-oriented batters in Alex Verdugo (four), Trea Turner (five), Mookie Betts (five) and Hanser Alberto (six). Soto’s walk to strikeout ratio (BB/K) of 1.50 ranked second behind only Yandy Diaz of the Tampa Bay Rays (2.33).
The final area of surprise when looking at Soto’s statistics over the past week came not in his good batting eye or lack of whiffing. Instead, it came in his power. While it was already mentioned that his home run count ranked first over the span, his .615 isolated power (ISO) – which looks at a batter’s raw power in terms of how many extra-base hits a player averages per at bat – ranked first among all batters with a minimum of 30 PA’s. The next highest ISO came from Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe (.552).
Although the Nationals have yet to really take off like they did one season ago, the x-factor on the roster who could make a streak reminiscent to 2019 possible starts and ends with Juan Soto. When he is on-target, he is lethal with the lumber.
It has showed.